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Diwali celebrations with family are always fun! Tips for Indian moms to make Diwali more special by including some meaningful family rituals.
By Sandhya Renukamba
Diwali celebrations with family usually mean a lot of activity in the house, often communally done, for many days before and after the actual days of festivity. Today, increased global mobility means a lot of people might not stay near extended family or even in a place where their customs and traditions are followed.
Teaching kids some meaningful family rituals is one way of staying connected to our roots. I remember Diwali family rituals from my childhood with a lot of nostalgia for the fun that we had with them; it would definitely be worthwhile preserving them for the next generations.
Here are five such fun rituals that Indian moms could try at their homes:
Amidst all the frenzied cleaning that happened at this time, there was one cleaning activity that we enjoyed as children. We sorted out our own clothes, toys and other things, and set aside any that were no longer used – these were then given away to some child not as privileged as us. An older cousin or a visiting relative (there were always plenty of relatives that stayed with us over the Diwali vacations) who was not otherwise engaged was supposed to assist us in this.
Though not on the same scale, I continue this family ritual with my daughter. My house-help has a daughter who is a little younger than mine. Every year, outgrown things that are in a good condition are set aside for her at Diwali. This helps to spread the festive cheer and teaches my daughter the joy of giving along with the obvious benefit of tidying up and making space for new things. One of her friends comes along for this; there is a lot of dressing up and fooling around, and it keeps her out of trouble for a whole day – sometimes many days.
Just like the gollu that is kept during Navratri and Dusshera celebrations, we have a fun Diwali custom that children absolutely adore: they love to muck around in mud and what better than building a killa or fort? It is throwback to the days of Shivaji, the Maratha king, and when I was a child, after the lamps were lit, the children would gather around it with someone who told us those stories.
We can make a miniature killa on a large platter at home, or as a group activity in the apartment complex. The frame is made with rocks and covered with the mud, complete with caves, cliffs, ramparts and villages. Fields are sown with wheat and mustard, a week before Diwali, so that there are verdant farms during the festival. Miniature models of soldiers, villagers, houses and animals are positioned strategically and lamps lit around it. One can use contemporary settings for this too, like the recent Olympics, or a tableau from a favourite story, for example. Telling stories around this killa can be a wonderful way to spend quality time with your children.
We always make our own lantern or kandil as it is called. A frame of cardboard is made – two circles joined with cardboard strips to make a hollow cylinder. There follows an enjoyable activity of paper cutting and folding – these are stuck to the frame with home-made wheat-flour glue. The streamers are cut out and stuck inside the bottom edge of the frame. The kandil is decorated with golden paper and voila – it is ready to be hoisted up and lighted.
There is also the rangoli. We do this inside the house, as there is no courtyard of yore. We use geru, a kind of iron-rich clay, of which a paste is smeared in a square in the designated area: when it dries, it mimics bare ground. The rangoli is then done on this. This can also be done on a large, flat platter smeared with geru – making it portable. Lamps are lit around it and every Diwali, it is a family ritual for my daughter to take the lighted lamps and place them all over the house – no one else is permitted to do this.
Food – the preparation and sharing of it is a big part of Diwali celebrations with family. Participating in the making of Diwali goodies has always been a big thing for kids, then or now – and we Indian moms could surely do with the extra help! It begins with helping to make grocery lists and shopping for them. Laddoos are never made without little hands rolling them. As also extruding chakalis on a plastic sheet ready to be fried, cutting of the shankarpalis, rolling out and filling the karanjis… all these have become family rituals. On the first day of Diwali, my daughter dresses up in her finery, and takes boxes of these goodies to her friends’ homes in our complex.
Baths on Diwali mornings have a ritual significance, complete with fragrant oils and herbal scrubs. According to the legend, on Narak Chaturdashi, everyone has to have their bath before sunrise, else risk eternal hell. On bhau-beej / bhai-dooj day, sisters take the opportunity to pummel their brothers while rubbing oil on their backs during the oil-bath. This has been a family ritual that I have really enjoyed, something that I enjoy even today, if I am with my natal family during Diwali, especially as I have two younger brothers. Of course, there were the gifts that I received from my brothers on this day.
Diwali celebrations with family gives us an opportunity to connect with our loved ones, while teaching kids how to have a safe and pollution free Diwali.
All images used under the Creative Commons Attribution License.
*Featured image credit: slalit
*Festive dress & jewelry image credit: Celeste33
*Rangoli image credit: subharnab
*Food image credit: rosemilkinabottle
*Young women image credit: Urban Prowler
In her role as the Editor & Community Manager at Women's Web, Sandhya Renukamba
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